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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 August 2007, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Call for debate on independence
Alex Salmond at Holyrood
The SNP is marking 100 days in power at the Scottish Parliament
The Scottish National Party has called for a "national conversation" to take place about independence.

It comes as the SNP executive prepares to publish its White Paper on independence this week - containing plans for a referendum on the issue.

Labour said the proposals were an unwanted waste of taxpayers' money.

A newspaper poll on Friday suggested support for independence had not significantly increased, despite more people backing the SNP.

The Progressive Scottish Opinion poll in the Daily Mail showed that while almost half of those questioned backed the Nationalists, the survey suggested 31% were in favour of independence.

Devolution in the UK is better for Scotland and most Scots know that
Jack McConnell
Labour leader

This was down from a high point in November 2006, when 51% of people questioned in a Scotsman/ICM poll backed independence.

A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said the SNP were taking a three-pronged approach to government, focusing on competence, consensus and their vision for the country.

SNP leaders argued their handling of incidents such as the terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport showed they were governing effectively.

They also claimed cross-party support for matters such as the abolition of bridge tolls showed the administration was building consensus on an issue-by-issue basis.

The spokesman said: "The SNP are pursuing a three-fold approach to government - competence in running the nation's affairs, a consensus to move Scotland forward on particular issues, and offering an overall vision of the country's future. That is the context for the White Paper publication."

DRAFT INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM QUESTION RELEASED IN MARCH
The Scottish Parliament should negotiate a new settlement with the British government, based on the proposals set out in the White Paper, so that Scotland becomes a sovereign and independent state
The responses would be 'Yes I agree' or 'No I disagree'

He continued: "The document will form the basis of a national conversation with the people, and will set out a vision of independence and responsibility in the modern world.

"It will be an inclusive, governmental document - making clear that ministers believe independence and equality offers the best future for Scotland, while urging those who believe in other possibilities, such as more powers, to come into the conversation."

A draft version of the referendum question was made public by the SNP in March.

It was set out to ask voters if they wanted to negotiate a new settlement with the UK Government so that Scotland could become a sovereign and independent state.

But Labour leader Jack McConnell said it was wrong for the SNP to propose a referendum on a question "we all know the answer to" after the May Holyrood election, where the Nationalists emerged the largest party by one seat.

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats oppose independence, while the Tories and Lib Dems support moves to increase the parliament's powers to varying degrees.

The Green Party support the SNP's moves towards independence, meaning an estimated 50 of Holyrood's 129 MSPs are in favour.

Mr McConnell said: "A clear majority voted against independence parties in that election because devolution in the UK is better for Scotland and most Scots know that.

"The new first minister should accept the will of the people and concentrate on the people's priorities."


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SEE ALSO
The SNP's first 100 days in power
11 Aug 07 |  Scotland
Independence paper to be released
26 Jul 07 |  Scotland
SNP sees amicable split to union
09 Apr 07 |  Scotland
SNP reveal independence question
25 Mar 07 |  Scotland

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